Volunteer Review: Kayleigh M., General Journalism Projects in Romania
Having worked in a book shop for the most part of my gap year, I saw a month in a foreign land as a final adventure before starting university. I knew I wanted to go traveling but wasn’t keen on aimlessly backpacking to the usual gap year haunts. So I decided on Eastern Europe; and Romania just seemed a little different. I hoped that working on the Brasov Visitor Journalism Project would enable me to gain journalistic experience, while being immersed in a culture totally different to my own. Yes I was terrified but I am so glad I pushed myself to do something I still, constantly, talk about six months down the line.
Leaving London in the mist of a terror threat, you could say I was slightly frazzled even before touchdown at Bucharest airport. Being a natural worrier I was a little relieved to find my chuffers there to pick me up as promised, and after a quick stop in the airport supermarket we headed out to Leo’s car. My imagination was starting to dread the journey with the four of us sat snugly in a small car alongside my unnecessarily large suitcase. Instead I was greeted by a large, sleek black car with speakers that could rival any UK boy racers.
We began our journey to the accompaniment of U2’s “Beautiful Day” along with various other musical accompaniments. My tiredness seemed to dissolve as I looked in awe, at the first glimpses of a country completely different to the one I had imagined. We passed thousands of watermelon sellers, fields of sunflowers, castles and finally, we arrived in the modern Brasov. The sweeping roads up the green mountains had changed to shopping centers, highways and concrete. We passed the high rise remains of communism and instead turned into a street full of ornate stone buildings, headed by the infamous Black Church.
I was then assisted with my bulging suitcase up the darkest alleyway I have ever seen, even in the late afternoon sun. After heading up a set of steps a door opened and I was relieved to be greeted by two smiling faces, after the uninviting alleyway. My hosts showed me to my spacious room, and it was time to sit down to my first taste of Romanian hospitality; a generous helping of homemade soup. My one month Romanian adventure was finally starting…
I awoke the next morning to an abundance of pastry, bread, yoghurt and even English tea. My host then collected me and I was given a guided tour of the town, the Brasov Visitor office and finally the Projects Abroad headquarters; a welcome break from the heat wave going on outside. That evening I had my first trip “to the fountain at 8” and met some of my fellow volunteers. Then it was off to the Irish bar, a location I was to become very familiar with.
Having arrived on a Sunday, I had my induction on the Monday, so Tuesday was the first day at my project and thankfully the map and guide from the day before served me well. The Brasov Visitor office was small but not as basic as I had expected. In a building that must once have been a house, there were five computers and another one for the editor to work from.
That morning I met Kelly and the editor Catalin and we were quickly taken away to the First Romanian School where the journalism began. There were only two journalism volunteers for about a week, but the numbers soon rose, and there were five when I left. As my main interest is fashion journalism I was able to put my ideas forward for articles and even got to interview two Romanian fashion designers. During my four weeks at the Brasov Visitor I interviewed, wrote up articles, visited many of the tourist hot spots around the town, met the Tiffin Boys Choir from London and tried my hand at proof reading.
The social side of the trip was equally as exciting. I had expected all the volunteers to be English, but in fact most were American and I even met some from France, Austria, New Zealand and my roommate was Canadian. In the month I only stayed in once, every other evening started at the fountain where, there were constantly new arrivals. We would then decide which of the many bars in Brasov we would be visiting that night.
Weekends were spent seeing the many sights of Transylvania with other volunteers or simply enjoying the many pleasures Brasov has to offer.
Now, some of those little things that just have to be done in Romania…
There are many, many places to eat in the town and being a journalist we would almost always have lunch out. One of our favorite haunts was the Romanian fast food joint Hectors; definitely try the number 5. In the summer visiting some of the abundance of ice cream sellers is something not to be missed. Fornetti seems to be on every corner, the small windows sell everything from pizza to chocolate filled pastry, they’re very cheap and very delicious. For Italian food Pizza Roma is a good bet for a pizza bursting with ingredients, just be warned that one can be quite substantial.
Of an evening there are many bars worth mentioning but I think that these are sure to be discovered. I would recommend trying a hot chocolate at least once, but the thick pudding like drink topped with cream requires a serious sweet tooth. Around Brasov a trip up Mount Tampa gives a great view out over Brasov but another breathtaking view can be seen from the Black and White towers. Taking a train anywhere is a great experience, just be sure you want choose the right type of train, it’s certainly worth paying that little extra for the faster ones. For the weekend I’d recommend Peles castle. It’s probably the most ornate building I’ve ever seen, and every visitor gets to fashion some lovely cloth slippers for the tour.
My one month trip to Romania honestly made the summer of 2007 the best one of my life. If anyone was considering a project in this unique country I would wholeheartedly tell them to go for it. Romania is a country that has to be seen to be believed, its mixture of identities make it impossible to imagine. Staying with a host family you will experience a side of another culture that couldn’t come from staying in a hotel or hostel. The project side also gives a practical purpose to traveling, and work experience in Romania certainly stands out on a résumé.
Another bonus is the fellow volunteers you’ll meet; where else could you visit Dracula’s castle and sing karaoke with people of all ages from all over the world? I stayed in touch with almost everyone I met; one of my American friends even came to stay with me after we left Romania. My confidence really grew which set me up perfectly for starting university and I’ve even starting worrying less!
I am glad to have visited Brasov when I did, and I urge you to do so too. Experience this country’s unique beauty now, before the masses catch on and steal its charm.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.